by Chris Large, Senior Partner
I feel pangs of guilt that I have a comfortable existence while others don’t know where their next meal is coming from. That I have time to take in the upsides of the lockdown – like a quieter neighbourhood – when others can’t see how to make their next rent payment.
We donate money and run errands, but none of it feels quite enough because night draws in but the crisis continues and we're not as exhausted as a nurse after a double shift. Across our community of progressive leaders we know that we might not be the medics needed in hospitals right now, but a national discussion is nearing about what next, and here we can play a role in fighting for a better future for all.
As Rebecca Solnit wrote, crises are moments in which we see with new clarity, "what's strong, what's weak, what's corrupt, what matters and what doesn't". We certainly need new perspectives. What we had before the coronavirus outbreak was far from perfect. With crises of toxic air, proliferating mental health issues (especially amongst the young), unnecessary first-world poverty and inequality, and the breakdown of climate and planetary systems.
The virus crisis and the lockdown have brought new perspectives to both GAP's areas of work – securing clean air for all, and an end to exploitative consumerism. Many people have experienced clean air in their neighbourhoods for the first times in their lives with the lowest traffic volumes since 1955. And the closure of shops, rationing of instore and online purchases, and the social debate about hoarding has forced new conversations about what we buy, how, and why. In March, Brits bought 34% less clothing then we normally do (ONS).
If we are to ensure that the future is a better one, we need to be an even stronger environmental movement, with more followers, advocates and changemakers. We can’t afford to lose many more battles. New perspectives offer new ideas about sustainability, and so while we are doing what we can to support those affected by the virus, we must also seize these opportunities to put us all on a better path while they are still open.
And so we are revisiting how to best describe and advocate for that better future. We share these thoughts in case they might support anyone else’s strategic response to this crisis – in our community of progressive leaders in business, civil society and public service. What follows in three segments are 10 new opportunities for progressive leadership:
- 1: Greater trust in neighbours, authorities and experts
- 2: Experiencing some of the benefits of sustainable living first-hand
- 3: A new willingness to stand up against self-interest and demand a better future
Finally perhaps the greatest opportunity for progressive leaders is proving that we can live sustainably. Chatting to friends about the style you like to strut, watching a favourite show on Netflix, or taking the family on a local cycle adventure are perfectly in line with one-planet living. The lockdown has helped people to envisage elements of sustainable healthy living, to see it is not alien, and we now have a fighting chance of making that lifestyle desirable and mainstream. We CAN have an enjoyable life and avoid destroying the planet.